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Midweek Meditation – September 22, 2021

Prayers to a God Who Provides

 Psalm 19:7–14

God Sees the Heart

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

We live in a world that judges the book by its cover. Because the outward appearance means so much, we can be tempted to overlook or disregard our hidden flaws. Unlike people, however, God is foremost concerned with what is on the inside: our hearts and our minds. After all, every action begins as a thought or emotion. Thankfully, God has the power to govern and guard them both.

As a campfire unchecked can consume a forest, an unchecked heart can be equally dangerous. We are quick to avoid the sins of murder or adultery, but are we as troubled by anger, lust, or pride?

We may play the part and impress others. We may be in good standing with people and the law. But if God is not pleased, our good behavior means nothing. Take heart; the Lord offers forgiveness of our sins and graciously renews and redirects our hearts, if that be our prayer. May our hearts desire what is pleasing and good, inwardly and outwardly.

Amen.

From “These Days”-July, August, September

Presbyterian Church(USA)

 Tieler Giles, Washington, DC

Midweek Meditation – September 22, 20212021-09-22T09:26:39-05:00

THE ONCE-AND-FUTURE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION DIRECTOR

THE ONCE-AND-FUTURE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION DIRECTOR

With great pleasure, First Presbyterian Church of Dalton announces that Jean Strain has agreed to come on-board as our new Director of Christian Education.  Jean served previously as our D.C.E. from 1995 until 2012.  Following the church transition in 2012, Jean remained employed in the same capacity at ChristChurch until 2014.

When the way was clear for First Pres to add a part-time D.C.E. position, we approached Jean knowing about her substantial education, skill set and experience in the field. All surpass what many D.C.E.’s can offer.  Her infectious, enthusiastic, positive response signaled to us a right move on the church’s part.

“We are excited to welcome Jean, and are looking forward to her imagination and energy in this new role. We hope that Jean can continue to build on the good work of our Christian Education Team, especially as we rethink and rebuild opportunities for all ages following the pandemic. We feel strongly that Jean has both the experience and the flexibility for just that challenge,” says The Rev. Dr. Will Scott, pastor.

Jean defines her vocation this way: “Christian religious education is the deliberate process through which a community of faith (the church) makes its past (the Christian story) available to people in the present history in which God is working so they can shape a future which is in keeping with the Kingdom Vision.”

She writes, “The objective of Christian Education is to help persons of all ages:

  • become believers; that is to know God as he has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ,
  • mature as believers; that is to grow in faith, love, and knowledge of God,
  • live as believers by seeking to carry out the work of ministry in the world through worship and discipleship.
  • respond as believers by seeking to carry out the work of ministry in the world through worship and discipleship.”

In addition to a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Philosophy from Mary Baldwin , a Presbyterian College and now university, Jean began pursuing the Certified Christian Educator PC(USA) status in 1996.  Within a four-year period, she attended certification classes at Columbia Seminary, Montreat Conference Center, Princeton Seminary and Austin Seminary.  She achieved Full Certified Educator status in 2000.

Jean has amassed quite a collection of leadership roles from a Presbytery to an international level.

Through continued study, she became a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, a Disciple Bible Study Leader and a Bethel Bible Study Leader and introduced all of these programs to our church.

“My goal and my joy is to meet students of all ages where they are in their spiritual journey and to encourage them and even challenge them to deepen their faith in such a way that they become followers of Jesus Christ and life-long learners,” she says.

She began her work on October 4, 2021.

THE ONCE-AND-FUTURE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION DIRECTOR2021-10-06T09:47:44-05:00

Midweek Meditation – September 15, 2021

 

blessed be the lonely

stuck in sameness

bored of the view

waiting for the phone to ring

watching the seasons change

through the window

daring to look inwards

to find hope they couldn’t see

by looking out  

                –Kate Buckley[1]

 

A Plug for the Humble Lectionary

As I’m writing this, there is a tropical depression going on outside the window. I wonder if those words have a double meaning. Tropical strikes me as exotic, new, alluring; depression as the elimination of novelty, and a shortening of the horizon into an endless grey sky. The two have seemed to meet in the middle.

Maybe that doesn’t sound too familiar. If you are short on novelty right now, what’s more exotic than a pandemic? Some of our more seasoned Presbyterians have remarked that, “nothing like this has ever happened before in our lifetimes.” The young have noticed the same. And while that may sound interesting—the Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times” springs to mind—the lived reality of pandemic life has much to do with sameness: the same concerns, growing stale in frustration; the same arguments in the community; the same limitations at church. We wonder, when will it end?

For much of us, our faith is practiced in public, communal ways. We go to church. We participate in education and mission activities. Maybe we sing in the choir. It’s imperfect, because all practice of faith is imperfect. But it’s possible that the past year or so has further removed these parts of your exterior practice of faith to the point that you feel disconnected from it. If the view outside your window does little to offer a new horizon, maybe the journey has to be elsewhere—an interior journey.

At this point I may sound less Presbyterian, because we typically don’t talk this way, which is a shame. We talk about the providence of God, grace, and sin. We may have even borrowed a little language about “relationship” with God from our Evangelical brothers and sisters. But we haven’t always spent much time thinking about what it means to go deeper in our faith. And if we’re frustrated that our faith seems stuck, or moribund, or just something you do on Sunday, it’s that “going deeper” that’s missing.

C.S. Lewis once wrote a book called, The Screwtape Letters, imagining the kind of advice a demon might give to a young charge hoping to steal a soul away from God. (Interestingly, a clergyman without a sense of humor complained to the paper publishing the letters, wondering why someone was giving such “devilish advice.”)

Screwtape, the one giving advice, talks about “The horror of the Same Old Thing”—our great fear that nothing will change, and therefore we, as people, crave variety. Says Screwtape, “The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change.”

The demon laments the way the universe is ordered, claiming that God gives us the best of both worlds—change and permanence: “He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.”

I have quoted this passage before—once, recently, when we debuted our new liturgical banners. In the church, we have ways of marking the passage of time through the seasons (each season with its own color).

We also mark time through the things that we read as a church. We sometimes read through the lectionary in worship: a calendar of readings that surveys the breadth of scripture. Some in our church read the daily lectionary, too: a similar calendar that pairs readings with every day of the year.

This has been a sustaining habit for me for some time, particularly as it can be practiced in the middle of a service of individual prayer through some resources our denomination provides.

If you’re curious about how you can take the first few steps of that interior journey, this isn’t a bad place to start. You can explore our Book of Common Worship https://www.pcusastore.com/Products/0664503527/book-of-common-worship-daily-prayer.aspx. Or you can download the PC(USA) Daily Prayer App on your phone, which walks you through the readings and prayers each days.

Whatever the view from your window is right now, or wherever you are in your faith, know that you will always be able to go deeper, even if you stay exactly where you are.

 

-The Rev. Dr. Will Scott, Pastor

First Presbyterian Church of Dalton, GA 

[1] Kate Buckley, Untitled from The Presbyterian Outlook, Vol. 203 No.12, August 23, 2021, p.4.

 

Cover Art: Swanson, John August. Ecclesiastes, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56542 [retrieved September 15, 2021]. Original source: www.JohnAugustSwanson.com – copyright 1989 by John August Swanson.

Midweek Meditation – September 15, 20212021-09-15T10:43:20-05:00

Midweek Meditation – September 1, 2021

 “THE WORLD IS CHANGED BY YOUR EXAMPLE, NOT BY YOUR OPINION”

A photograph of a young man, ignoring the onslaught of rain as he holds his umbrella over a wheelchair-bound woman, accompanies this quote in a Facebook meme.  No other words are needed.  His example says it all.

How often do we see Facebook and other social media used to pontificate with the posters’ opinions?  What if we were to make a concerted effort to use these channels to show actual examples of doing good?

If you are not aware, our pastor, Will Scott, has announced that we as a congregation will focus this year on the Book of Luke.  Sermons and the Monday morning Bible study as well as other events will magnify the messages that add up to one main message.  The ministry of Jesus is about changing the world by example.

Starting in Luke 4 and continuing through chapter 16, we read the stories of our childhood, told through examples of the work of Jesus.  Healing at Simon’s house.  Cleansing a Leper.  Showing love for enemies.  Not judging others.  Raising a widow’s son from the dead.  Calming a storm.

The parables also feature world-changing examples, such as the parables of the Sower, a Lamp under a Jar, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Fool, the Mustard Seed, and the Lost Sheep.

Woven into these and other chapters are the stories of Jesus’ birth and growing-up years as well as details of his Galilean ministry and his ultimate sacrifice.

Luke is actually a fascinating read.  It is uncluttered and straight-forward while at the same time, loaded with gems for contemplation. Through Luke’s Gospel, we get a clearer picture of who Jesus was and is.

Just as a book club discussion is more interesting if you have read the book, the sermons, Bible study and other activities will take on new meaning for you if you have a chance to read the Book of Luke.  (And compared with other books, this is a short read.  However, if it has been a while since you have read it, you may be surprised at how much is in it!)

 

Prayer:  Our Father, we praise your name and are genuinely grateful for your Holy Word and the guidance it provides for how to live our lives.  Please help us to be aware continuously of how our actions and examples affect others and of how we can expand our actions and examples to serve your Kingdom better.  In Christ’s Name We Pray, Amen.

 

First Presbyterian Church of Dalton, GA. (PCUSA)

Midweek Meditation – September 1, 20212021-09-01T08:58:36-05:00
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